And back to the facts… a reply to Professor O’Leary

yellow and black arrow sign

Colin Coulter and Peter Shirlow respond to four key points raised by Professor Brendan O’Leary in his challenge to their original paper published here on Slugger last week, along with clarification of some of the language used in both pieces.  In his response to our recent opinion piece, much of what Professor O’Leary has to say focuses not on that essay but another publication that covers some, but not all, of the same ground. We felt it might be considered discourteous …

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Changing Shared Island to Shared Ireland will invite defence, not collaboration.

brown and black violin

There was much packed into the recent Ireland’s Future event at the SSE arena but little debate. Apart from the mild rebuke of former UDA member and loyalist politician David Adams arising from comments by an unnamed member of the Irelands’ Future Board in a newspaper column, most of the panel members were of the same mind. Presumably, happy contributors to what Professor Colin Harvey referred to as “the growing coalition for constitutional change”; sharing common if narrow purpose and …

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Why facts (should) matter when it comes to discussing our political future…

a lighted star hanging from a chain in front of a sunset

Colin Coulter and Peter Shirlow interrogate the overall data to question confident predictions around the future constitutional destination of Northern Ireland and come up some challenging questions for a popular media narrative. On Saturday last, Ireland’s Future hosted the latest in a series of public events. In the Spring, the pressure group launched a document specifying 2030 as the ‘right time’ to hold a constitutional referendum. There is little discernible logic in the text as to why that might be the …

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First thoughts on Sinn Féin’s disastrous election

a person is casting a vote into a box

David Moane is retired, lives in Dublin and takes an active interest in Southern politics. Here he shares his thoughts on the lessons that need to be learned by Sinn Féin after their disappointing performance in the recent elections. The European and local elections in the RoI were a disaster for Sinn Féin and a vindication of the Government. This momentous outcome will have ramifications for both parts of the island. First, Sinn Féin. In the June 2019 European and …

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A Bit Shook Up

To lose one beloved ‘Blue Lights’ character last year was unfortunate. But to lose two this time around would have been disastrous. (SPOILER ALERT) Yet this was the scenario ‘Blue Lights’ viewers were facing at the end of last week’s penultimate episode when a passing car belonging to Sian Brooke’s Grace Ellis and Martin McCann’s Stevie Neil was hit with a bullet. Fans of the BBC1 show had witnessed Alfie Lawless’ young boy Henry Thompson accidentally discharging a gun hidden …

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Is it time to give up on power sharing as a bad job ?

A couple of weeks back I wrote about whether or not the time had come for Alliance to adopt a constitutional position (TL;DR – it hasn’t). As is typical of articles that touch on the constitutional issue, there were quite a few comments, most of which spectacularly avoided the point and tended to rehash boring talking points and clichés from the 1970s. But there were several fair remarks which merit further discussion, so I thought I’d start with the most …

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Desperate Measures

So let’s start with the good news. (SPOILER ALERT!!) After his beating in last week’s episode in a Belfast nightclub during a botched surveillance operation organised by Des Eastwood’s DS Murray Canning, Nathan Braniff’s Constable Tommy Foster was still alive. Katherine Devlin’s Constable Annie Conlon was on the warpath, though – pulling into the car park of Blackthorn Police Station as if she had just navigated Gambon Corner. As DS Canning and Frank Blake’s Constable Shane Bradley hunched over a …

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Taking The Gloves Off

The latest installment of ‘Blue Lights’ began with a tight close up of Seamus O’Hara’s Lee Thompson as he faced questions about the discovery of £30,000 in the boot of one of his taxis. Claiming it was the sum collected for charitable donations towards a new community centre in Mount Eden, he produced a statement corroborating his claim from its chairman, Dan Gordon’s veteran loyalist Rab McKendry. However Jonathan Harden and Joanne Crawford’s Inspectors Jonty Johnston and Helen McNally were …

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Alliance : time to get off the fence ? 

Some weeks ago I noted with interest the outcome of the University of Liverpool survey into the makeup of the Alliance Party membership base and their views on constitutional matters, finding that a larger number of members believe that Irish unity should occur in the future.  The title of this piece refers to an old cliché, which I’ve heard since 1994, that the party are a bunch of fence-sitters. More recently I’ve been hearing “constitutional change is coming and Alliance …

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Sharp Eyes Save Lives

It was a bit of a subdued start to the latest episode of ‘Blue Lights’. (SPOILERS ALERT!!) Nathan Braniff’s PC Tommy Foster was on a date with Dearbhaile McKinney’s fellow police officer Aisling after persuading her in last week’s opening episode of Series Two to go out with him. With her based in Derry/Londonderry and him in Belfast, they chose the rather unglamorous venue of a bus serving breakfast in a car park at the Glenshane Pass to meet up. …

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After Donaldson the question remains: how do we feed future generations of those who live in Northern Ireland?

aerial view of boat on water

As a Manchester City fan of many years standing (myself and just two others in Primary went blue when everyone else was going red) I know a rapid change in managers is not a sign of good health. After many years of stability at the top the DUP is experiencing that sort of bewilderment you get when nothing you try quite sticks. It’s been a rough ride since Peter Robinson stepped down. In spite of the drastic reasons for the …

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Power of the People

a view of the clouds from a plane

Lost amidst the hullaballoo of recent days was an article from Rory Carroll in the Guardian marking 20 years since Ireland, in a world-first, introduced a smoking ban in workplaces, pubs and restaurants. Journalists from all over the world descended onto the Republic to see this novel social experiment in action and to see whether it would stick. To the surprise of many, stick it did, and similar legislation has been adopted by multiple other countries in the years since. …

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VIDEO: Ulster Workers’ Council Strike: 50 Years On #imaginebelfast

Freeze frame from video of Ulster Workers’ Council Strike: 50 Years On event in Crescent Arts Centre - Connal Parr is standing at the podium - seated near him are Dawn Purvis, Carmel Gates, Harry Donaghy, Jackie Redpath and Jackie McDonald.

Last Saturday, an Imagine! Belfast Festival event looked back at the Ulster Workers’ Council Strike: 50 Years On. A decade on from his 40th anniversary conference at Queen’s University – you can still listen back to my recordings on Slugger – Dr Connal Parr was joined on the Crescent Arts Centre stage by panellists Dawn Purvis, Carmel Gates, Harry Donaghy, Jackie Redpath and Jackie McDonald. The video of this year’s event can now be viewed. Filmed and edited by Alan …

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Justice Colton and the Limitations of ‘Reconciliation’

sunflower field under blue sky during sunset

Brian Walker recently commented on Mr Justice Colton’s intervention in the legacy debate – namely his judgment on 28 February in the High Court on a batch of cases seeking judicial review of the 2023 Legacy Act. Brian argued that that 200-page judgment ought to be understood with reference to ‘the basic purpose of the whole enterprise … the key word is “reconciliation”’. This is undoubtedly correct, but assessing peace and justice according to reconciliation is, I suggest, seriously tendentious …

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Two very different leaders call for a dumping of old ways to bring a more inclusive Northern Ireland into being…

maps lying on the floor

I don’t usually post at weekends, but the chatter about Jeffrey Donaldson’s interview on TalkBack in which he talked about “unionism shaping political change going forward”, combined with Micheál Martin’s remarks to the Alliance Party there is definitely something interesting afoot. The Donaldson piece is not a fade or tactical manoeuvre, although Kevin Meagher made a good point yesterday on Nolan when we were both on together, that Donaldson’s rhetoric repeated a note of reconciliation from Robinson in 2011 (and …

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“a striking manifestation of the confidence and optimism of the shared island initiative…”

bridge, autumn, nature

As recently as November Irish News columnist Brian Feeney wrote a column under the heading to the effect that “The Irish government and Fianna Fáil have no policy at all on the north”. [Ahem – Ed] Well, the secret of politics is in the timing. In a year that will see elections on both island’s Micheál Martin’s brainchild the Shared Island Initiative has finally made people sit up and take notice. The initiative was launched in 202o and by the …

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After a big day for Irish nationalism it’s time to make the institutions they now lead actually work

a couple of tools that are sitting on a table

Saturday was a big day for Nationalism, and few summed it up as well as the new Nationalist leader of the opposition, Matthew O’Toole: As we walked down the stairs into the Great Hall, we passed the figure of James Craig, Northern Ireland’s first Prime Minister — the man who built this Building and this state in his image. Whatever one’s view of him, Craig was a far-sighted strategist, but even he was unlikely to have foreseen today’s events. The …

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As Sir Jeffrey emerges with an unexpected answer to Northern Ireland’s dilemmas, so must others…

grayscale photo of duck on water

Brian has it in one. There are no excuses, now the DUP’s great misadventure with an aspirational Brexit they (nor any of their loyalist critics) would never be able to shape or control is at an end. Their eyes were bigger than their belly, which allowed them to be distracted from their main purpose as an NI Unionist party, which as Jeffrey Donaldson has noted, is to make Northern Ireland work. I appreciate Frank’s concern about some of the wording …

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Our tired and failing democracy needs a new set of eyes

close-up photography of girl

“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for she was born in another time.” — Rabindranath Tagore Good to see the Belfast Summit launched (Carlos Moreno is internationally influential and is a bit of a coup for them) just after the news of the likely restoration of Stormont. I hope we do get back to work. On Good Morning Scotland (36.19) this morning I provided context for this breakdown and then agreement to anyone listening at such an early …

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